Supporting Peers in an Inclusive Environment


A Little Help from Our Friends


This month's focus on the Inclusive Schools Network is the importance of promoting peer relationships.  One important aspect of peer relationships involves peer tutors or peer assistants in the classroom.  This month, ISN offers a variety of resources for establishing a formal peer tutoring program in your school.  As we visit schools around the US, we find very few with formal peer tutoring programs that have procedures for selecting peer tutors, providing training needed to fill the role of peer tutor, or for evaluating the success of the program.  We have several free tools to help you and your school cross these hurdles. 


Another aspect of peer to peer relationships is the instructional avenues for promoting more peer interactions, such as cooperative learning, pair learning, and other collaborative learning opportunities that are easily imbedded into a good lesson design.  You will find several tools that provide for more frequent peer interactions around instructional tasks.


Finally, we have a great new blog that addresses the parent's role in supporting natural peer relationships outside of the school environment.


When preparing for this particular newsletter, I was reminded of my teaching career with students who were either blind or had very low vision.  Not a day went by that one or more of my students didn't ask:  Ms. Stetson, what do I do when my classmates offer to help me and I don't need it?  What do I do when they don't offer help and I do need it?  I thought about these very real questions from children, some of whom may have a lifetime of offered assistance or the lack of it.  My response today is the same as it was then.


We live in an interdependent world.  To be successful in relating to people, we should be comfortable both giving help and asking for or receiving help.  Certainly I had these conversations within the context of avoiding 'helplessness' but in self-advocacy for respect both received and given.  I think that every teacher should consciously plan for these reciprocal interactions on a daily basis.


Think of the many ways in which this can be accomplished.  Just a few ideas include:

    • Working with other students to locate reference materials in the library for class study;
    • Distributing assignments or graded work to the class, just as typical peers fill this role;
    • Assisting fellow students in checking their work with a teacher-provided answer key;
    • Calling out spelling words to individual students in preparation for a test;
    • And many more ways linked to classroom tasks and learning assignments.

Help us add to this list of ways all students can find meaningful roles of helping and being helped in an inclusive classroom.  Please send your ideas and suggestions to:


Each of us has a need to help and to receive help throughout our lives. The inclusive classroom is an ideal place to learn these lessons and to gain deeper relationships and valuable assistance for all of our peers.  Successful adults have certainly learned these lessons and practice them daily.


Enjoy this month's newsletter and our continuously updated website!  





Thank you,

Frances Stetson, Ph.D.

President, Stetson & Associates, Inc.

 March 2012




The Inclusive Schools Network  is a web-based resource for families, schools, and communities interested in the topic of inclusive education. 




The use of peer supports to improve student learning is not a new instructional approach. Historical data indicates peer supports were used several hundred years ago. There is evidence that Africans, Greeks, and Romans began ...



Parent Perspective

You've Got a Friend


Teacher Talk 

With a Little Help from My Friends


Leadership Perspective 

Building Natural Peer Supports

Blog Anyone?   

Our stimulating and interactive blogs on the ISN website allow educators and families to join discussions and share perspectives on a variety of relevant topics relating to inclusive schools.  


Parent Perspectives- Dedicated to families, this blog features recent discussions on topics such as family involvement in schools, creating a safe and caring school environment and participating in your child's learning at school and home.  Families will also find a variety of resources to support their students learning. 


Leadership Connection- From the administrator's perspective, discussions around topics such as involving parents in school, using multi-level instruction to boost achievement and issues around poverty in our schools will keep school and district leaders current on national dialogue and trends.


Teacher Talk- Calling all teachers!! This blog will be launching soon. Keep checking our blog section on the ISN web to share your perspectives on issues influencing teaching and learning.  



A wide variety of literature exists on the topic of peer support in education. The following books are just a small selection of literature available to guide school teams in establishing peer support programs. All of the resources listed include planning tools to support educators in implementing the strategies and programs. 


All of the books listed below are available from Paul Brookes Publishing, Inc. and can be ordered at


Peer Support Strategies for Improving All Students' Social Lives and Learning by Erik W. Carter, Ph.D., Lisa S. Cushing, Ph.D., & Craig H. Kennedy, Ph.D. (2009).

This 160 page paperback is a practical book and planning guide for middle and high school teachers and administrators who are seeking ways to implement peer support strategies to benefit students with moderate to severe disabilities and their peers. This book comes with photocopiable planning, implementation and evaluation tools along with vignettes that illustrate successful peer supports.


Social Relationships and Peer Support, Second Edition by Rachel Janney, Ph.D., & Martha E. Snell, Ph.D. (2006).

One of the newer editions in the popular, Teachers' Guides to Inclusive Practices series, this book helps educators foster meaningful friendships and relationships among students. It includes information on legislation, peer support guidelines for middle and high schools, and ready-to-use strategies on a variety of topics associated with peer support practices.

This edition comes with blank forms for planning and evaluation and is filled with practical ideas for improving social relationships among children with and without disabilities. 


Peer Buddy Programs for Successful Secondary School Inclusion by Carolyn Hughes, Ph.D., & Erik W. Carter, Ph.D. (2008)

Educators who read this book will learn how to set up a successful peer buddy system in an inclusive secondary school.  The book guides the reader through each phase of program implementation. Resources within the guide include practical, research-based materials: extensive case examples, program checklists, suggested classroom adaptations, sample forms such as peer buddy applications and evaluation tools, and learning activities school staff can use to brainstorm and solve problems.



Adobe Youth Voices


Encouraging peer interaction requires educators to identify relevant and interesting topics for students to interact about. At the secondary level, media is the driving force connecting young people to their peers and the world beyond their own community. 


The mission of Adobe Youth Voices Essentials is to empower young people to "Create with Purpose" by developing collaborative media projects that help transform disengaged youth into creative and articulate contributors to their communities.Their website offers a road map for creating, planning, and implementing innovative media projects with young people. Educators will find planning tools, examples, and tips that help launch, guide, and sustain effective projects. To check out the downloadable curriculum, video examples and other free resources go to



The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)

Conference and Expo 2012

Denver, Colorado

April 11-14, 2012


The annual CEC Conference and Expo, one of the largest in the nation,  offers participants many opportunities to learn and engage in dialogue  about critical topics impacting special education and 

inclusive schools today. Topics include: teacher effectiveness, 

universal design for learning, collaboration, evidence-based 

instructional strategies, classroom management and many more.


In addition to the hundreds of topical sessions, there are numerous 

special events including networking opportunities, teacher recruitment events, an Expo exhibit, award presentations and intensive workshops. 


To find out more and to register for the conference visit their 
conference website HERE.


Pathways to Inclusion: International Conference on Inclusive Education 

Prague, Czech Republic 

April 23-28, 2012


As inclusive education has become a top priority in educational policies in Europe, the 6-day course, Building a School for All: Moving Towards an Inclusive Education,provides administrators a venue to learn and discover with and from colleagues in an international setting how to move towards inclusive education.  The course offers a framework for the further development and promotion of inclusive education, as well as a hands-on experience in the planning of such an approach.

The course is organized by a consortium of European INSET organizations and universities that are partners in the Pathways to Inclusion network. For more information visit the site HERE. 

Spread the Word to End the Word!


 The R-word is the word 'retard(ed)'. Why does it hurt? The R-word hurts because it is exclusive. It's offensive. It's derogatory. The R-word is hate speech. Pledge to end the word now!

Dr. Frances Stetson will be a guest on The Inclusive Class Radio Show on the Special Needs Talk Radio Network on Blog Talk Radio to discuss inclusive schools! Her interview will take place Friday, March 30, 2012, at 9 AM Eastern Standard Time.  

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